What is an Airbag Suspension?
Like the name implies, an airbag suspension consists of either a highly durable rubber air spring inserted within the factory coil spring, or a self-contained full replacement of the coil spring in the form of an inflatable airbag. In both cases, the air system is inflated to raise or lower the Jeep according to the cargo weight it’s carrying. Additional accessories or more expensive automated systems allow you have larger fluctuates in height regardless of the cargo weight in the Jeep and control the lift within the Jeep.
What are the Benefits of an Airbag Suspension?
The biggest benefit of an airbag suspension is ride height versatility. The height of the Jeep can be adjusted according to the terrain or cargo weight.
On the trail an airbag suspension can be used to precisely control articulation of the Jeep, inflating and deflating each corner in order to stabilize the Jeep for an ideal center of gravity. It can also be used to help If you’re stuck high-centered coming over a steep hill, allowing you to raise the height, free the Jeep and get past the obstacle. Also, while on the trail, an airbag suspension can be precisely controlled to lower or raise the front or rear of the Jeep independently to help with approach and descending angles.
During excessive cargo situations, the rear of the Jeep will dip lower than the front, throwing off the handling, especially during cornering. An airbag system can be inflated to properly level the rear of the Jeep and compensate for the additional cargo weight and stress put on the rest of the suspension.
When increasing the size of your Jeep’s tires, an airbag suspension can be inflated to accommodate the additional tire clearance needed both on and off-road.
How is an Airbag Suspension Different from a Traditional Coil and Shock Suspension?
The main difference between an airbag suspension and a common factory suspension is height adjustability. The airbag suspension can be inflated either manually through an air valve connection or automatically through an onboard air compressor and switches. During the inflation process, the Jeep is lifted. When deflated, the Jeep is lowered. On the other hand, the factory suspension found on Wranglers is set to a specific ride height.
In addition to ride height, ride comfort is also different when comparing an airbag suspension against the factory suspension. The factory suspension utilizes the coil springs to absorb bumps and holes in the road or on the trail. The shocks help with the stabilization of the rebounding spring coils. When paired correctly, the system offers a set height and firmness despite the conditions. An air bag suspension can be an additional element within the factory system and help support and lift the Jeep during heavy cargo situations, or it can completely replace the factory suspension, providing an inflatable spring paired with a specific shock. The inflatable spring allows the Jeep to be raised and lowered in height despite the cargo weight in the Jeep. As discussed in the benefits section, this function can be useful in a variety of situations.
What are Some Popular Airbag Suspension Options for Wranglers?
There’s a large variety of airbag suspensions available for Wranglers. Choosing the correct one for your Jeep is largely based on your intended use and budget. Here are some of the most popular options.
The Air Lift Performance 1,000 leveling system is designed to be a simple to install support system for the factory suspension. The Air Lift’s main purpose is to help level the ride height of your Jeep when you’re carrying heavy cargo that would normally cause the rear of your Wrangler to sag. Although airbag systems like this can help level and support up to 1,000 lbs., it’s important to always keep your Jeep’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in mind. Systems like the Air Lift leveling kit are mainly designed to inflate and provide additional suspension support, providing a smoother ride, helping to eliminate excessive body roll or trailer sway, while also protecting the Jeep from bottoming out if it goes over a pothole. The system can be inflated manually through the provided air valves or can be installed along with an optional onboard air system also available by Air Lift. The benefit of having an onboard system is the ability to easily adjust the height of the Jeep from inside of the Jeep. The system also helps stabilize the Jeep during cornering and comes with an automatic load controller that regulates the height of the Jeep in accordance to the cargo weight, making the adjustability aspect fully automated.
If you’re looking for a replacement of the factory suspension and full conversion to a full airbag suspension lift, there are several options available like the Airock lift. What makes a kit like the Airock unique is the ability to fully automate the inflation and deflation of the airbag suspension. The Airock replaces the factory spring coils with self-contained air springs and new shocks designed specifically to handle the range of the air springs. The kit also includes height sensors and a control unit that constantly monitor the load on the suspension and makes finely tuned adjustments to maintain an optimal center of gravity. In addition, kits like the Airock lift are also very versatile on the trail, providing you with instant access to the height of each corner of the Jeep. As mentioned earlier, this fine-tuned adjustment can be an advantage during difficult articulating moments when the Jeep is at an angle and attempting to maintain all four wheels somewhat planted. A good suspension with a large range in movement is ideal during these extreme articulation situations.
There is no doubt airbag suspensions serve a functional purpose. If you routinely carry a significant amount of cargo and weight in your Jeep, an airbag suspension will help offset that weight and reduce the stress on other mechanical components. Within a trail environment, airbag suspensions can also serve an important role of manual adjustments within the Jeep to counter the effects the terrain is having on the Jeep. Ultimately, the decision of using an airbag suspension is largely based on your specific needs and budget.
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